Notes From The Margin

March 28, 2008

David, We will have to disagree on the 100 days point!

We are great fans of Barbados Underground, we find their articles though provoking and well reasoned. We don’t always agree with them, but that’s what makes the blogosphere interesting. David served up an interesting article this week:Barbados Needs National Energy Policy, NOW we agree with the headline and the main point of the article, that in a global economic environment we need a realistic energy policy with a strong emphasis on renewable resources, however we will have to agree to disagree with his subsidiary point.

The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) pledged to Barbadians that within the first 100 days of assuming the reigns of government, it would roll-out several major initiatives. Our commonsense, which has been honed over the years through observation, tells us that the pledge was part of a gimmick which political parties are expected to engage at election time. It should be obvious that a political party in opposition is not equipped to deliver on promises made, simply because it is not in the obvious position of government to efficiently plan and allocate resources. The BU household continue to be amazed at the frenzy which is demonstrated by our educated public concerning trivial matters, whenever we have elections. Following the script to the letter, the opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has reminded the government of its 100 day promise, we listened to Senator Liz Thompson doing so with her usual eloquence in the Senate yesterday.
We commented on the post, to the effect that the “100 Days” was a political gimmick that worked and that it was now fair game for the opposition to use to attack the government. We don’t think it’s the only reason why the DLP won (or even the main reason), but it was a central plank in their platform.
However our real reason goes deeper than that……
The “100 days” was a political gimmick that was packaged for consumption by the electorate. However read more deeply it was the DLP’s statement of “THIS IS WHERE OUR PRIORITIES ARE” and even if you did not believe they were capable of delivering it in the 100 days, (as we think most people with common sense felt) the idea of a time frame communicated that there was a real plan behind the statement.
An opposition party is not in the position of a ruling government in terms of access to information and allocation of resources, however they have a luxury that the Government does not:
Time.
An opposition has time to consult with stakeholders, time to sound out opinions, time to float ideas in informed circles, to create and construct a plan. They also have the unmitigated luxury of doing this in an environment where there is absolutely no pressure to implement. These two things, a sitting government does not have (As Dr. Estwick has found out with Greenland). In this case the DLP had 14 years to craft its agenda for governance.
We think that the Thompson administration should be accountable for its 100 day agenda. If it can’t be done in 100 days, when can we expect it? A year? two years? If the first orders of business are delayed what about the elements of your manifesto that were not in the first 100 days? We should not let it fall quietly by the wayside.
We agree that a discerning eye should be cast over the ABC Highway expansion project and it’s conduct, however we think that the level of scrutiny should be applied to this administration, the principle at stake is simply too important.
Until we hold our politicians accountable for their words and actions we will get the government we deserve.
Marginal
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March 18, 2008

Welcome to the 5 year long election campaign!

When the dust settled on January 16th the two parties ended up being quite far apart on number of seats but actually quite close on total number of votes cast. With only an 8% difference in terms of total votes, it means that the current government is vulnerable to a 4% swing. This means that despite a comfortable majority in Parliament, the Thompson administration must politically plan from now with an eye to elections in 2013. It also means that the Mottley opposition is already keeping an eye on that year.

As a result of this we are likely to see Mr. Thompson trying to attack what has long been perceived as the BLP’s strongest point; it’s management of the economy. The BLP for it’s part will pick at every flaw in the government’s actions.

This leads to the  ludicrousness of things such as Government suddenly becoming skeptical about unemployment statistics despite never having said a word about it before or during the campaign. It certainly was not a part of their platform. They are not releasing those figures because it will reinformce the BLP’s perception of good governance.

For the BLP’s part, this whole “We don’t know why the government won’t work with our consultants” is laughable. They damn well know why and they would do the same if they were in office as well.

What it amounts to is that we are in for a five year long election campaign, with the cut and thrust of January continuing at a lower intensity until 2013

Strap yourselves in, it’s going to be a wild ride!

Marginal

March 12, 2008

Consultants – Another One Of Those Silly Games That Politicians Play

“Politicians Mekkin Mock Sport At We…..”
Mighty Gabby

We on the margin have watched with a degree of amusement at first Prime Minister David Thompson’s “House cleaning” followed by Former Prime Minister Arthur’s war path speech. Having listened to them both I can only come to the conclusion that our prime ministers both present and past are playing “mock sport” with us.

Let’s accept a few realities here…

1. Consultants are an accepted part of governance in the Caribbean, always have been and more than likely always will be. When running something as complex as a government, it is understandable that policymakers (whatever party they may belong to) may want to have independant advice to help them shape policy or to advise them politically, to write speeches etc.

2. Let’s also accept the fact that each policy maker is going to want to select their own consultants or advisors. Hence you cannot equate persons who fill this role with public servants. Like the directors of statutory boards etc. They SHOULD resign when the administration changes. It is not victimisation for the incoming administration to say that they want to take someone else’s advice.

So here we have PM Thompson, equating hiring consultants with squandermania, just to have to turn around and defend his appointment of “political advisor” Hartley Henry as being somehow different.

We also have former PM Arthur talking about going “on the warpath” over these people being dismissed. (They should have tendered their resignations already)

While we have serious concerns about Mr. Arthur saying that he “helped out” one of his speech writers who had lost his previous employment, we also recognise that Mr. Henry is unlikely ever to file consultant report that will be filed in the government filing system. The advice given by consultants at this level is more than likely to be held in the PM’s personal files and also likely to leave the office with the individual when he demits office.

So when you cut through all of the sound and fury that has surrounded this issue, there really isn’t that much substance here. Just politicians playing “holier than thou” and mekking mock sport as they play to the gallery.

Marginal

March 9, 2008

David Thompson Praises Owen Arthur- BFP Criticises David Thompson….Coincidence?

 

It was bound to happen sooner or later, BFP turned savage on David Thompson. (Just after Mr. Thompson praised his predecessor)  It would seem that BFP is discovering that politicians are politicians. (Particularly in Barbados)

The whole tale in three parts….

Nation News – Well Done!

BFP: Barbados Cabinet Ministers Free To Accept “Gifts” From Persons Wanting Government Approvals Or Contracts

(Note The BFP  article is published same day as the Nation Article)

Our take on the matter…(Published in June LAST YEAR) “Prime Minister Owen Arthur, and the Opposition Democratic Labour Party led by David Thompson, who was once the Minister of Finance, are virtual ideological twins”

What makes Barbados fortunate is that both Mr. Thompson and Mr. Arthur are quite good as politicians go, and while they may both talk left their actions are decidedly centrist. But anyone expecting fundamental change from either party is likely to be disappointed.

Marginal

January 31, 2008

Economic Advice From Prof. Howard

Local Economist Prof. Michael Howard who has become a regular commentator on Government’s economic policies today wrote an guest column in the daily Nation offering his views on the way forward for Prime Minister Thompson’s government and Owen Arthur’s stewardship.

His comments on former PM’s Arthur are interesting:

Whether he knew it or not, Arthur was also influenced by Rostow’s misleading “catch-up” notion of Barbados becoming a “developed country”. We may have already reached there since we are now in Rostow’s stage of “high mass consumption”.

Arthur’s expansionary policies eventually led to “overheating” of the Barbadian economy. Overheating was caused by heavy expenditure on the World Cup, the bunching of lumpy capital projects, and high levels of conspicuous consumption. The positive aspects of overheating were increased employment and economic growth.

The Barbados model has now reached a critical turning point where serious decisions have to be made to reduce high levels of spending, maintain capital controls, and curb illegal immigration. Without capital controls the exchange rate will come under significant pressure, as the economy faces a possible recession.

( If you want a quick overview of Rostow’s Theory click HERE.)

The point on the removal of capital controls we have spoken about on the margin already. It does seem to be a judgement call. As we said in our post “Capital Account Liberalisation – Good or Bad? ” it seems that no one REALLY knows what will happen when capital controls come off. Prof. Howards view that the world economic situation is less favourable MAY be right.

Interestingly his other points include tax policy:

It’s likely that it may happen in a cosmetically changed format and Thompson may claim that it was his idea! Arthur’s tax policy seemed logical to us on the margin, and it favoured gradual incremental change over a period of years rather than sharp adjustments. In lowering the income tax rate he was able to address the issues with the NIS pension fund without the population feeling poorer. With his policies he began moving the economy away from income taxes which inhibit investment and towards VAT. Arthur had indicated publicly on more than one occasion that he considered moving to one tax rate for both onshore and offshore sectors to be desirable.
On the issue of VAT Prof. Howard had this to say.
We on the margin agree with the professor on this point, and are concerned that once exceptions are made to the VAT tax, it becomes easier to make further exceptions. “You zero rated sports equipment so why not this?” Also the more zero ratings the more loopholes there are for abuse. (Are rally cars sports equipment? How about clothes to train in?) The objective is socially laudable, but we believe that the Government should find another way of achieving it.
 .
We aren’t sure that we agree with Prof. Howard on one of his later points on the cost of living.

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“Reliance on imported food is a major cause of the high cost of living in Barbados.”
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We believe this argument ignores the fact that (1) Many of the input into local agriculture are imported, (2) Much of the imported food is so subsidized that it lands at costs BELOW the cost of local production. While the lack of competition in the distributive sector is definitely a factor it is in our view simplistic to view them as a major part of the problem of local agriculture withering, without a full examination of ALL of the factors involved.
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That said we are happy to see input from some of the best brains “On The Hill”. Barbados is at a stage of it’s development where precious few countries have gone before. Input such as Prof. Howard’s is invaluable in helping both policymakers and the public understand the issues of the day.
Marginal

January 16, 2008

Vox Populi Vox Dei

Well I’m writing this at 11.00pm as we all sit and listen to the election results come in. Although the final result in not clear at this time, one thing that is clear is that the Government has changed.  It’s looking as if the DLP will end up somewhere north of 20 seats.

While I don’t think anyone will look back on the 2008 election as either party’s finest hour in terms of conduct, the DLP maintained momentum from the beginning and kept on the offensive throughout the campaign. While the BLP’s campaign was most definitely hurt by not having the debates, and rarely managed to take the initiative from the Dees.

The true test of a democracy is when an incumbent government loses, and the result is accepted by ALL supporters of all parties. At the end of the day we are all Barbadians and it is in all of our interests to move forward with the new government.

An election is one case where vox populi is vox Dei, supporters of the BLP would do well to remember this.

But that is for another day, for right now NFTM congratulates David Thompson on a well run campaign, and wishes him the best of fortune in the coming five years.

Marginal

January 10, 2008

Politicians, It’s One Week Before Elections, Do You Know Where Your Vote Is?

With one week left to go before elections, Barbados is in the grips of one of the most intense election campaigns in recent memory. The two parties’ campaigns appear to be evenly matched, and evenly funded, and to a certain extent evenly supported. We on the Margin have been watching the silly season unfold in all its glory, and we have to admit we are unable to predict a winner at this stage.

Yes, if you listen to Waiting In Vain and Royal Rumble and the other party hacks that inhabit the blogosphere, they all predict a resounding victory for their particular party. But having spent the last week talking to many people, we think that both parties are “Whistling past the graveyard”. For as much bluster as either side makes we’re not sure that either of them has captured the hearts of the electorate.  Barbadians are looking at both parties with a skeptical eye and the hard truth is that this election could go either way.

What we have noted that this campaign has been more about accusations and counter accusations rather than issues. We would like to see some serious discussion about both parties’ visions for the next five years. While we wish that we could say that we thought we would get such reasoned debate in the next next week, we really don’t think so. We think that this next week will get wilder and dirtier with each passing day.

We on the margin would urge Barbadians,  think long and hard about both parties before you go into the polling booth. Whoever you choose is entirely up to you, but be sure to participate, be sure to cast your x. Be sure to treat that decision with the seriousness it deserves.  Hopefully we will all be better off for your doing so.

Marginal

December 31, 2007

In Support of Adrian Loveridge

We indirectly received a copy of Adrian Loveridge’s letter to the Prime Minister regarding the near constant death threats that appear online from BFPE. We have published the letter as part of our blog not because we support Mr. Loveridge in all aspects of everything he does, but on the principle that there are some things that should never be tolerated.

BFPE has issued threats and hurled racial invective since they began. They purport to be Government supporters but it is not altogether clear that they are, as they are an embarrassment to the Government. (Or to any organisation that they support) While the threats have to a large degree been directed at BFP, who have the benefit of anonymity, a large portion of them have been directed at Adrian Loveridge, who has had the temerity to disagree with and criticise the Government on several issues.

While some may advance the argument that BFPE is a harmless looney who is not to be taken seriously, we on the margin know that if those threats were directed at us we would take them very seriously. People standing at our funeral wringing their hands and saying “I didn’t think he was serious…” would be very cold comfort.

Mr. Loveridge should make a formal report to the police of the death threats, and also Mr. Arthur should make a public statement condemming the threats. Not to do so, sets a dangerous precedent in Barbadian politics, where we have been fortunate not to have a history of violence.

There should be zero tolerance for the behaviour exhibited by BFPE and its cohorts. And because of this we are publishing Mr. Loveridge’s letter.

Marginal

The Right Honourable Owen S. Arthur, Prime Minister

Sir,

Two days ago the brother of the Chief Justice, Mr. Peter Simmons, telephoned me at our hotel to voice concern about any possible linkages between himself or brother, and what can only be described as almost daily death threats against myself and wife. Most of these death threats and similar vows to burn down our hotel have been placed on two very popular blogs: Barbados Free Press and Barbados Underground. Barbados Free Press recently advised that they have identified at least one of the death threats to IP: 69.73.212.201 timed at 10.39pm (GMT) on 28th. December 2007

I understand that with the assistance of the Police and Cable and Wireless, it is possible to trace the sender (s) of these deeply offensive threats which are often linked to pornographic websites and contain explicit vile comments.

While, we may not entirely share the same views on every subject, I am sure you would not condone this sort of behaviour and I would respectfully ask for your assistance to initiate a Police investigation into this matter.

I promise you my full co-operation to track down this person (s). During the nearly 20 years of residence on Barbados, my wife and I have tried to make a useful contribution to our field of endeavour, tourism.

Of the 106 hotels on Barbados rated by the worlds most visited website, TripAdvisor, Peach and Quiet, is currently ranked #2, which are entirely based on actual guests comments.

I thank you for considering this matter and wish you and your family a healthy and happy 2008.

Adrian Loveridge

29th December 2007

Sent to info@primeminister.gov.bb at 0512 hrs 29 December 2007

December 21, 2007

Owen Arthur Rolls The Dice….

Owen Arthur announced the general elections today as January 15th 2008 with nomination day being December 31st. Signalling the start of what must surely be one of the shortest campaigns in local political history. Both opposition parties have been quick to condemn the announcement coming before Christmas while saying that they are ready to go to the electorate.

NFTM tries not to get into the political scene however I’m sure that we will get into commenting now and again over the coming two weeks. We had quite honestly figured that the bell would have been rung later down in the year, however the election date is the sole prerogative of the PM and given the harsh criticism of the date by the opposition, it would appear that he has execised his choice to give tactical advantage to his party.

I’m sure over the next couple of weeks we’ll hear about:

The teifing and corruption is terrible!

What corruption?

We are united behind our leader!

They are a house in disarray!

So and so is a dis and dat

and all the other things that pass for intellectual discourse in a political campaign.

However, the fact remains that both parties come from the same ideological position (we’ve talked about this before in our post “Prime Minister Owen Arthur, and the Opposition Democratic Labour Party led by David Thompson, who was once the Minister of Finance, are virtual ideological twins”)

So whoever wins don’t expect much to change (both good and bad)

Marginal

November 27, 2007

A couple of points for the Bajan Blogosphere.

I’ve been meaning to get this off of my chest and it really has been bugging me, there are a couple of major misconceptions floating around the blogosphere and it is REALLY beginning to tick me off.

 1. The offshore industry are not crooks.

If they weren’t there your taxes would be much higher. Yes I know you read stories from the net about how “unfair” it is that they don’t pay their taxes in their home domicile, but why should you worry about propping up government innefficiency in another country?  If they really want to shift those companies back onshore they should lower their taxes. The use of “offshore” jurisdictions is an accepted part of day to day life in the financial services industry. Just ask those banks in exotic locations like Vermont for their opinion.

 2. A lawsuit is not proof of being guilty!

Being sued in a civil suit is not proof of guilt, in fact being sued in a civil suit is not proof of anything!  In fact its common practice by lawyers to spread their lawsuit as far and as wide as possible. Up to and including suing the secretary who accepted the letter for her boss that might have contained the information that might be pertinent to the suit if the planets align the right way next Thursday.  Thats how you get things like the Kingsland suit.

3. Just because the BLP/DLP said it, doesn’t mean that it’s not a good idea!

Come on! the number of partisan hacks that we have on line who disconnect any sense of intelligence from any facts is amazing. We’ve actually had people claim that Owen Arthur is infalible, that all of the development in the tourism industry occurred during Peter Morgan’s days forty years ago, and the list of absurdities goes on. And by the way, our pointing out flaws in your arguments is not proof of supporting the other side, we just aren’t supporting YOU.

4. The fact that you didn’t know about it, doesn’t mean that it’s a secret!

Let’s face it none of us know everything, but not knowing about something doesn’t mean that there is a great secret conspiracy to keep it hidden from the light of day!

5. Resorting to insults and invective are not only childish but you make the other persons point for them.

In case you haven’t noticed that’s why they leave those comments on the comment board, jackass!

6. Laws for defamation are not a bad thing (per se) !

They are supposed to stop people from publishing crap about people and rubbishing their reputations. Without them there would be no obligation to do even the slightest reserarch before publishing. (Oh, I’m sorry we are already in those circumstances in Bajan Blogworld.)

7. The more you allow party hacks to go unchallenged the more you undermine the credibility of your blog/media.

Starcom Networks gets this, just ask David Ellis. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be allowed to comment but certainly the blog owner should challenge all blatantly partisan opinions. Allow them free rein at the expense of your credibility. (Sorry, once again something we don’t worry about in the blogosphere)

8. The more you become a forum for the silly and the absurd the less the mainstream will pay attention to you.

Let’s face it the blogs no longer have the political force they had 3 months ago. They are no longer seen as “voices of the people” they are becoming part of an entertaining lunatic fringe that can be safely ignored.  We in the blogoshpere are poorer for it.

I’m sure this post won’t be popular, and will upset more than a few people, but I feel much better for getting that off of my chest.

Let the fireworks begin!

Marginal

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